How the aristocracy preserved their power | Chris Bryant
“Historically, the British aristocracy’s defining feature was not a noble aspiration to serve the common weal but a desperate desire for self-advancement. They stole land under the pretence of piety in the early middle ages, they seized it by conquest, they expropriated it from the monasteries and they enclosed it for their private use under the pretence of efficiency. They grasped wealth, corruptly carved out their niche at the pinnacle of society and held on to it with a vice-like grip. They endlessly reinforced their own status and enforced deference on others through ostentatiously exorbitant expenditure on palaces, clothing and jewellery. They laid down a strict set of rules for the rest of society, but lived by a different standard.
Such was their sense of entitlement that they believed – and persuaded others to believe – that a hierarchical society with them placed firmly and unassailably at the top was the natural order of things. Even to suggest otherwise, they implied, was to shake the foundations of morality.
They were shocked and angered when others sought to deprive or degrade them. They clung tenaciously to their position. They developed ever more specious arguments to defend their privileges. They eulogised themselves and built great temples to their greatness. They jealously guarded access to their hallowed halls. And when democracy finally and rudely shunted them aside, they found new means of preserving their extravagant riches without the tedium of pretending they sought the common interest. Far from dying away, they remain very much alive.”
This is, of course, true of all aristocracy – not just the British.
I have become (even more) painfully aware of the depths of these things lately. After joining Facebook, to be more precise. Leaving what people post aside for a moment, have you ever stopped to consider all of the subconscious micro-decisions that go into the judgements people make in the “friending” process? As I looked at the friend lists of people I know, I started seeing patterns. Similar clothing, similar vacation spots, similar insinuations of purchasing power. And from the pictures I selected to post, I realised I was doing exactly the same thing. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the primary function of FB (the one that’s just under the surface) is as an exercise in self-categorisation. Or the establishment of an artificial self that determines a placement in the social hierarchy.
I did stop and honestly attempt to break it down. Who did I dismiss? Why did I dismiss them? What I discovered is that my subconscious is at odds with my conscience. It makes decisions that I would consider reprehensible.